by Jerome Grapel…….
(This essay was written in the late 90’s)
I’ve been writing this series of essays long enough to have passed through a number of Christmas seasons. It is only now, after the accrued confidence garnered in elaborating this mounting slush of chicken soup philosophy, that I feel strong enough to take on this despotic colossus that has become such a powerful force in our culture.
Given what I’ve written in these pages over the last few years, it should come as no surprise that what I’m about to say will not be a “ho-ho-ho” state of mind. For most people, this immediately situates me within the well defined frontiers of the “Scrooge” nation, something I heatedly dispute. One must remember that the traditional Scrooge character portrayed in the wonderful Christmas story is not just a negative person with regard to Christmas; he is a hateful, stingy, heartless man every day of the year. The Christmas season, with its message of goodwill on Earth, more clearly defines the crotchety Scrooge personality, but even if there were no such Holiday season, he would still be a thoroughly distasteful fellow all year round.
Perhaps there is a bit of defensive self consciousness in play as I attempt to defend myself from the Scrooge accusation. When one is constantly confronted with the swelling avalanche of the mainstream culture’s candy-coated Christmas portrayal, it is difficult not to be a bit insecure in taking on such a Goliath-like foe. In summoning up my courage to do just that, I could predicate my defense on the people who know me best, but if I were to defend myself, I’d simply say that for the better part of my life I’ve dedicated myself to not intentionally hurting anyone. Being human, I may not have always succeeded, but I also know that if there really is some kind of omnipotent Deity judging my actions, I would not have to fear Its verdict.
My negative attitude towards what Christmas has become is not a Scrooge-like attitude, but rather, a consistent expression of the philosophy being developed in these pages. This philosophy, if it has the merit I hope it does, is based upon a more congenial, harmonious state of being for our species, something I feel the recent evolution of the Christmas animal has become not just lax in promoting, but detrimental to.
I don’t doubt there was once a time (and for some, still is) when Christmas was a sincere expression of spiritual devotion to a seriously taken set of religious principles. In spite of the fact that I’m not what might be considered a “believer”, or man of “faith”, if the spiritual devotion the Holiday Season is supposed to embody were still the focus of the celebration, I’d find no reason to be at odds with it. On the contrary, such devotion would have to be respected as something pure and worthy.
But the alleged birth of the Christ child has been thoroughly co-opted by the Global Economy. Christmas now represents an economic concept far more than a spiritual one. The overwhelming concern of the news industry for sales figures is undeniable proof of this.
It is certainly not my purpose to simply be one more voice added to the Niagara-like cascade of voices protesting the hyper-commercialization of Christmas. Such quasi-protest has almost become an obligatory part of the Season’s personality and could be considered an ineffectual cliché by now, like talking about the weather and doing nothing about it. But there are a few aspects of my own Christmas bitch that I can’t recall being raised by others, which makes them worthy enough to enter these pages.
Many, many years ago, when I went off to college and took on that bygone designation of “freshman”, I remember having to show up a few days earlier than the barfing, beer-sotted upper classmen, in order to have my “orientation“. This was my introduction to the life I’d be leading the next few years and gave me some idea as to what was expected and how I should be.
In the much broader arena of the western concept of life, the “Business Tyranny”, spoken of so unlovingly in this mass of dubious philosophical patter (see essay “The Revolution and Capitalism”, and others), uses Christmas in much the same way.
One could not be too far off the mark in saying that Christmas is meant more for kids than anyone else. They look forward to it with far more zeal and frenzy than the rest of us. These kids are the “freshmen”, or incoming class of the human race. They are entering uncharted waters as they take the helm of the boat that will take them through life. They are in need of “orientation”. What are they being taught?
Before discussing the cultural lessons put forth by the obligatory taking of Christmas 101, it should be said that this is a powerful force which leaves a perhaps indelible mark on the most impressionable segment of the vaudeville of human life. Christmas is a tyrannical cultural dictate that is virtually impossible to ignore. Try telling your kid you don’t believe in all this culturally coerced gift giving and would rather celebrate the birth of the Son of God with prayerful devotion and a loving day of good cheer and yukkity-yuk, hardy-har. You better hope uncle Roy doesn’t give him a bee-bee gun for Christmas.
Christmas 101, as governed by the regents of the Global Economy, teaches, above all else, that human fulfillment is an almost direct result of material acquisition. The doubles partner working in close harmony with this concept is the idea that love is expressed primarily through the giving of things. If dad doesn’t get me that new Space Ranger Genocidal Laser, he doesn’t love me. Conversely, thinks dad, if I don’t get him what he wants, he won’t love me. The Christmas gift becomes the ransom paid in releasing the love held hostage of a child.
Surprisingly enough, the inspiration for this essay was a bit of bad news (or is it good news?) coming from the Christmas culture. For the 3rd year in a row, in spite of the fact that the economy is cruising along with the fairest winds and clearest skies, the Holiday sales figures have been disappointing. Are pockets of guerrilla resistance starting to take to the bush against the Christmas Tyranny? Are people beginning to ask themselves why they are being brow beaten into spending all this money? Do I really need all this aggravation? How many broken and forgotten toys must I buy before I say “enough”?
If only it were true.
Relevant Material: “ … of this abominable societal model, coming to us primarily from America and the Anglo-jerks, that doesn’t value being, but rather, having.” From the novel, “La Prueba del Laberinto” (The Test of the Labyrinth), by the Spaniard, Fernando Sanchez Drago.
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